catsidhe: (Default)
Churches have the right to publicly opine on matters of public policy. Even when such opinions happen to have startling alignment with certain political parties' platforms.

But here's an idea: when a religion starts actively campaigning for one party or another, they lose the right to be recognised as a tax-exempt entity. Squared if they're doing it by lying.

You want to play partisan politics? You get to pay tax on your property and income, like the rest of us.
catsidhe: (Default)
”Jesus lays on that hippie stuff pretty thick. He has lines like ‘Do not repay evil with evil’, and ‘do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you.’ Really. It's in that book you hold up when you scream at gay people.”


Jan. 11th, 2011 11:11 am
catsidhe: (Default)
Random thoughts bubbling in my head, but they refuse to come out when I want them to. Bastards.

So, instead of an essay, I give you stuff.

Pope says sex education an 'attack on religious freedom'
“Stop oppressing us with your facts and science! We demand the right to keep everyone in the world to our standard of ignorance! If you don't let us tell you how to do things, then you're oppressing us! Wah!”

I propose a new Godwin's Law for Climate Science: if you quote Lord Christopher Monckton in any way which indicates that you actually believe him, or even take him seriously in any way whatsoever, you have just demonstrated that everything else out of your mouth/keyboard is of absolutely no value. It is of course, possible that you might have made a valid point elsewhere, but by quoting Monckton you have demonstrated that it's vanishingly unlikely.

Imagine first that you’re a kid, maybe eleven or twelve, possibly thirteen. You have Asperger’s syndrome, which means that your social skills are impaired already; plus you’re a preteen/young teen, which means that the rules for your social world are constantly in flux. But as of yet, you’re not diagnosed; nor has anyone in your life ever heard the word "Asperger's," nor would they know what it means.

I don't think I had it quite as bad at that age. I only remember fearing for my life a couple of times.
Or maybe I did, and I simply didn't notice.


Nov. 9th, 2010 09:33 am
catsidhe: (Gilgamesh)
So there's a debate on in NSW about religion in state schools.

It seems that in NSW, state secular schools are, in practice, not secular. ‘Scripture’ lessons, or Religious Education, are mandated.

And there was a talk about it on Radio National last night.

It annoyed enfuriated and enraged me. So let me demolish the ‘arguments’ in parts.

On the argument that RE is not compulsory

Now, when you ask a bible-thumper about mandated attendance, they will be quick to say ‘no it isn't, a child can always opt out.’ And that argument is superficially correct, but only superficially: it's correct in all ways except the ones that matter. For a start, it is opt-out. The implicit default is that all children will do Scripture. Second: it is mainly Christian. Other religions do hold RE, but it's all volunteer-based, and the Christians are simply the best proselytisers. Moreover, where Jewish RE exists, it is explicitly for Jewish kids; if you're not Jewish, then it's not really for you. Similarly with Muslim RE. I don't know if there is such things as Buddhist or Hindu RE, but I imagine its the same there too. But the Christians not only welcome anyone, they actively hunt down those who stray. Viz: cj@08 Nov 2010 6:49:59pm:
my nephew attending a Christian scripture class for a year. The following year he was meant to go to a Baha'i scripture class for that year.

His parents wanted him to learn about all faiths as they are not religious but want him to have an open mind about our peoples beliefs, therefore each year attending a different scripture class and there was no alternative to a scripture class at his school. unfortunately the Christian scripture teacher dragged him out of the Baha'i scripture class because she said he wasn't meant to be there! his parents weren't aware of this until the end of the school year.

And when children do opt out, what do they do instead? Nothing. No, really, it's considered unfair that children get to avoid indoctrination and get that much further ahead than their peers, so it's mandated that they do nothing in that time. Anecdotes are give that they read in the library (but not study, that would be wrong), or do colouring-in, or even are made to sit on the Hot Seat in front of the principle's office.

Add to that, these people saying ‘nah, but they can opt out’, obviously don't remember what school is like. The laughter of children is, as Pratchett says, a delight until you're close enough to hear what they're laughing at. It doesn't take much for a difference like ‘not going to scripture’ to be turned into a reason for persecution.

So: the weaselly and pathetic excuse that ‘it's optional’ is just sophistry and bullshit.

What's next? The concept of ‘secular ethics’.

On the denial of the existence of Secular Ethics

Fuck me with a chainsaw, but some mindbogglingly stupid shit has been dribbled on to keyboards on this topic. And more was spouted last night, including the number one rage button for any non-theist: “but how can you have ethics without God, durr I eat poop?” Because if we didn't live in continual fear of the Big Beard In The Sky, we'd be raping and killing each other with gay (in both senses of the word) abandon. (No, really, this daft bint really claimed that without God there would be no imperative not to kill each other.) Which is not just wrong, it's stupid, and manages to reduce the entire subject of Ethics to “If God does it or wants it done, then it's good by definition. God just happens to hate the same things I do.” Not, I hasten to add, a monopoly of Christians. (But I should point out, not a monopoly of Muslims either, so stop pretending that Christians are better than Muslims because they're Christians and not Muslim, there are other factors, which your arguments always seem to raise perfunctorily in order to dismiss without consideration, in the desperate search for a sophistic argument to fit the already decided upon conclusions. But that's another rant.)

So, after a lot of serious chin-stroking (if not stroking other anatomical parts), these serious people have decided that because Australia is based on English culture, and that England has been Christian for, like forever (or about 1100 years, whichever), that it is simply impossible to talk about ethics without mentioning Christianity. And here's why I think that ‘argument’ (and, by extension, many of the people who make it) is stupid:

On the difference between ‘How to think’ and ‘What to think’

First: The Ethics course which has been talked about is all about hypotheticals and actual thought, so you can see where the god-botherers get upset right from the get-go. Scripture is all about telling you the right answer. Ethics is about thinking about the process which leads you to the right answer. ‘Because God said so’ is quickly revealed to be a non-starter, intellectually, however much it impressed Aquinas. So to that extent, you don't need to mention Christianity, and more the point, it is that very absence of need which enrages and bewilders the God-botherers in equal measure. You don't need God to live an examined and ethical life, and Fundies hate that.

Second: There are all sorts of things built in to English and Western culture which we've lived without quite happily. Like the Caste system.

On the Caste system in the Mediaeval Polity

When the Magna Carta talks about Trial by Peer, it meant something very specific: The Mediaeval social structure had the Three Orders of Man: Those who Pray, Those who Fight, and Those who Work. The Prayers were the Clergy, which was in practice anyone who could read Latin. Those who Fight were the Nobility, the gentle folk (to call someone a Gentleman was explicitly to refer to them as of Noble blood). Those who Worked, or in other words, the other 95% of the population, were the commoners, from the richest merchant in London, to the meanest serf. Trial by Peers meant that only Nobles should be on the jury for Nobles, only Clerics could judge Clerics (and they used their own Canon Law to do so: their own private law, literal privilege), and Commoners would have guilt decided by other Commoners. In a court instituted by their Lord, with a Judge appointed by their Lord. Where village-level xenophobia was strong, and strangers could, and as far as we can tell often were, accused of crimes because they were foreign and there, and found guilty because they were strangers more than by the facts.

As far as the system as a Caste system was concerned, you could become a Cleric, but otherwise you were strictly Noble or Common, and different laws and penalties and rights applied depending on who your grandfather was. This why being made a Knight was such a big deal: it was explicitly raising a man from being a Commoner to being a petty Noble in one hit. And centuries later, why rich merchants went to so much effort to buy Baronetcies: it wasn't just a matter of conspicuous consumption and vanity, it really was the purchase of a new social standing, the purchase of membership to a different and distinct social stratum. (Of course, the distinction was in its last practical days by the end of the 19C, but the call was still strong.)

To be fair, this was a civil structure, not a religious one, but the Privilege of Clergy was one held on to for a long time, and in England still, the two houses of parliament are the Commons, where the commoners sit, and the House of Lords, where the Nobility and Clergy join in patrician-like oversight of the rabble in the Other House.

But still, a strong, if relatively simple Caste system lay at the heart of the Magna Carta, and thus at the heart of the Common Law Legal System. That contradictions and confusion was already strong in the system at the time (what with poor Peers and rich Commoners) does not reduce that fact.

And yet we see it now as an anachronism. All men are (now) created equal, and have equal rights and duties before the Law. It doesn't matter who your grandfather was. By the same token, the Christian basis of Common Law, where it has led to good theory and practice, can be removed, leaving the theory and practice behind. A solemn affirmation has the same legal force as a hand on the bible. Why not make it that a hand on {holy book} is just a special case of the Oath, being an affirmation to tell the truth? (Unless it already is, I don't keep up with such things.)

Just because something has been a part of our system for a thousand years, that doesn't make it necessary or still relevant. The status of Women as not legal people was also current at the time. The existence of maleficent witchcraft and demonic influence was a Legal Fact. To be gay was a literal crime against God and Man. We got over the need to give these things legal force (mostly). Why stop there?

On Cultural baggage

One caller said that she had taught children who had no idea what the Apple symbolised in art. Who had no idea that it was connected to Genesis, or how, or why. And that Scripture classes were necessary to inculcate these things, these ideas which should be taken as granted.

Really? I call shenanigans. Sure, these things are important to understanding our culture. So teach them as part of cultural studies, not RE. Why? Because when they're taught in RE, they're taught as being Truth. That's a whole other thing, a whole other set of baggage from simply understanding the symbolism. And while you're teaching the cultural significance of Original Sin, why not include the Journey to the West? Why not the war between Osiris and Set? Why not the Titanomachy and Ragnarökkr and the Táin Bó Cúailgne?

As far as I can figure it, it's because the Christian Chauvinists simply can't stand the thought of sharing.

My final argument

Now, the discussion on Radio National was very collegial and chummy. A lot of mutual stroking was going on behind the microphones. You can think of it as the stroking of egos, if you like. You might also think of it more as an epistemological circle jerk, but I couldn't possibly comment. And in amongst this happy chat about whether Ethics could be taught without Christianity (as I say above, a stupid question, but one which everyone treated as meaningful and serious) and whether children really need an alternative to religious Scripture lessons, there was one question which was noticeable in its absence in the discussion between these learned men:

Why are they teaching Scripture in State Schools in the first place?

Why is it that children are assumed to need Religion taught as Truth in public schools? Why are secular schools a party to religious indoctrination? Teaching Ethics is another question, a different question, one which already has a good case for it to be taught to all children. But that's not the real cause for the Christian Autocracy's massive hissy-fit: they just don't want to have an alternative. They don't want to have to share. They want their time filling the heads of children with Doctrine not to be questioned in the first place, for it to be assumed as their privilege and their right.

An anecdote

When I was in high school, I got dragged off to an RE class. Exactly once. I was in science class when a list of kids due our dose of indoctrination was read out. It was mentioned that it was not compulsory. I decided that I would prefer to stay in science class, then, TYVM. After a couple of minutes someone was sent to collect me. It turns out that it wasn't compulsory, but you still had to go. And when I got there I immediately registered my displeasure with being forced to sit in on this crap. And by the Gods I proceeded to hold my own against the instructor. I don't think he had been trained with a genius Aspie in mind, already prepared with arguments from Relative Theology and loaded up with contradictions in Christian Scripture, Dogma, Theology and Practice.

But still, I was forced to go, and I was forced, unwillingly, to defend my lack of faith in front of others. (None of whom got a word in edgewise, if I remember correctly.) As it happens, I was perfectly able to do so, and was able to solidify some concepts which had previously been unexamined and nebulous. But that effect was opposite to the point of the exercise: the point was to make me Christian, and if I hadn't been such a contrarian pain in the arse even then, it might have worked. For a while, anyway.

Don't forget that: the point of Scripture is to make one not think about the questions, the point is to provide you with answers, and do everything to prevent you thinking about how they don't make sense, how they don't stand examination. And sure, there's Ethics in there as well, but they are in the form of Answers, not questions; Dogma, not process; and they're mixed in with the Woo to the point that it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins: a tangled ball of ontology.

You want to teach your children religion? I have no problem with that. The question being: why aren't you doing it yourself? And why do you think that your beliefs should be taught to my children?

One thing I should point out is that this debate, and the issue it surrounds, is limited to New South Wales, and it doesn't affect me directly because I live in Victoria, where RE really is optional, because it's opt-in, and in my experience is limited to Jewish RE, which is as much Cultural as Religious. (Although I was somewhat startled when Miss A came home one day to tell me that “We have one God and He's everywhere!”, but still, we chose for her to do Jewish RE. It wasn't assumed that she would be doing Scripture, and she wouldn't be singled out for refusing it.)

But even though it doesn't directly affect me, it sure as hell offends me as a Humanist.

And an apology to the Christians who I know don't subscribe to any of the above, who are decent people living to their beliefs as best they can. I just want to let you know that I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about the Christian Chauvinists, the Religious Bigots, who believe that if you're not Christian, you're not worth any consideration other than proselytisation. The ones who piss you off as much as they do me -- more even, because they're giving you a bad name, doing things in your name which you would never countenance.

To you I say: I'm sorry you got caught up in this, and I'm sorry you have to put up with those people as well.
catsidhe: (Gilgamesh)
Dear Catholic Church of Rome, and all princes, archbishops, bishops, priests and functionaries therein,

Fuck you, you gang of sophistic, hypocritical, greedy, powerhungry psychotic bastards.

You ceased to have anything to do with the ‘Christian Ethics’ which you so badly misrepresent and twist to your own convenience, about half an hour after Jehesua ben Joseph left you the keys. I can only assume that Catholics who are also actually Christian are still obeying your insane and abusive rantings through a combination of brainwashing, lifelong indoctrination, and stockholm syndrome. Especially all the women, whom you have been telling for almost two thousand years are not actually human beings worthy of respect or concern.

Please do the world a favour, release your library and art archives for the rest of us to find out the rest of what happened for the last two millennia, then collectively die in a fire.

And, actually, it's worse than that. A bishop who ordains a woman will be excommunicated the instant it's found out, and until there is evidence that paedophile priests are publically dealt with the same way, I am forced to assume that you will continue your longstanding procedure of hiding it for as long as possible and prevaricating until you have no choice.

Given that, I must assume that whatever you say about the relative badnesses (and that's already an abomination), in practice, it seems that recognising a woman as a human being in the sight of God is seen as worse than raping a child.

Well done.

Have I mentioned ‘fuck you’? Because, really, fuck you.
catsidhe: (Default)
It is a crime to be gay in Uganda. It is deemed to be such a serious crime to be gay that it can be punished with life imprisonment.

But this is not enough, it seems. You see, if being gay is, in its own right, serious enough to warrant life imprisonment, then what do you do when some is gay, and HIV positive? ‘Aggravated’ gayness, if you will? Simple. You take the next logical step, and punish it with death.

That bill would also make it illegal to discuss homosexuality, or even for a landlord to rent to a homosexual person. When asked about this monstrous denial of humanity, a minister is reported to have said
“We are really getting tired of this phrase human rights. It is being abused. Anything goes, and if you are challenged? 'Oh, it's my right'.

“Anal sex? Human rights. Robbery? Human rights. All sort of nonsense? Human rights.”

And beyond the sheer monstrousness of this in its own right (and a vague wondering why this hasn't led the news reports here...), I have two points to make.

First is that this is an entirely logical extension of the fundamentally broken thesis that some people have less rights than others. And while not being able to marry is not within many orders of magnitude of this, it is on the same continuum. The arguments are basically the same.

And second: the argument is being made that this is a push led by religious politicians from another country. When I say that, I bet most people will automatically think of Wahabbist Saudi Imams. And they'd be wrong: the trail leads to fundamentalist Christians in Washington.

The problem is not Islam, or Christianity, or even necessarily religion: the problem is small minded xenophobic fucks who have it on good authority that God hates the same people they hate, and it's a sin to think about it too deeply. That it's a sin to think.

They are the enemy, whatever they're wearing, whatever language they're ranting in, whatever name they give to the imaginary friend they abuse to justify their prejudices.
catsidhe: (Default)
The stupid never ends.

Waitress wins payout over 'figure-hugging' dress

Summary: a waitress is told that her uniform will change. The change is that the female uniform is bright red and figure-hugging, while the men's uniform remains loose and dark. She objects to being an object, and is fired. She sues for discriminatory treatment. She wins, as the tribunal agrees that the new uniform code treated women differently from men, but does not get the amount she asked for.

Straightforward, so far?

Only the opening line is A Muslim cocktail waitress. As if that makes the circumstances different. Surely sexist treatment is sexist, no matter the religion. She, as a woman felt like she was being advertised as part of the menu, and objected. Surely that should be enough, right? But no. She is Muslim, and thus ripe for The Daily Hate and the Scum to attack her for hypocrisy, because they found a photo of her taken at the beach.

But that is, as Ms Lemes points out, completely irrelevant. People wear bikinis at the beach all the time, but that does not make it less degrading to be forced to wear one at work.

Her religion does not make her offended where there would otherwise be none, her religion makes her more aware of when her figure is being used to objectify her. She is not a burka-wearing fundamentalist, she is a modern, liberated woman. And there was a line she was not prepared to cross.

The deliberately-missing-the-point-stupidity burns.
catsidhe: (Default)
The President of Brazil is not a complete failure as a human being. As opposed to the aforementioned Archbishop.

The man who raped and impregnated his nine year old stepdaughter has explicitly not been excommunicated, and his abominable act is explicitly not held to be as bad as the acts of those who saved her life.

It's not really possible to comment without dropping into a string of obscenities. And that gets boring after the first three or four pages. If you want to supply your own, go nuts.

Platitude of the Day has some choice words as well.
catsidhe: (unhappy)
Brazilian Archbishop declares that anyone involved in giving a particular abortion would be excommunicated.

The abortion in question is of the twins being carried by a nine year old girl who had been raped by her stepfather since she was six, and which pregnancy was practically guaranteed to kill her.

Christian love and charity, suck it up.

Note also that there is no mention of the stepfather being excommunicated, making the priorities involved quite clear.

It has also been pointed out that there is a ‘loophole’ in Dogma, to the effect that an abortion may only be carried out if not doing so would soon result in the death of the mother. I dunno, you think a nine year old girl with twins might qualify? Because the report says that the Holy and Compassionate Mother Church didn't think so, attempting to block the abortion anyway.

It has yet further been said that the excommunications were of the sort that merely participating in the procedure was sufficient, and that a properly delegated priest or higher could reverse it. In which case: if it was determined that the procedure wasn't excommunication-worthy ex post facto, then surely the un-excommunication must be retroactive? But regardless, the Archbishop is talking about it in the future tense. To him, this is not something which is a legalistic formalism, this is something which is yet to be done, and it will be done, and he is going to make sure that it is done. But not for the man who raped a nine year old girl and got her pregnant. This is not, obviously, nearly as bad a crime against God and Man as is saving a little girl's life.

You want me to believe that the Holy Catholic Church of Rome is worth pissing on? Show me the evidence that this Archbishop has been even told off for being such an egregious putz.
catsidhe: (Default)
Christians[1,2]: You Atheists, you claim to be all ‘reasonable’ and ‘rational’, but really you're just another religion.
Humanists: I, err... what?
Christians: You are, you totally are! You declaim, without being able to prove it, that there is no God. You can't prove there is no God, so you're totally working off faith, which totally makes you a religion, nyah!
Humanists: No we're not. We merely point out that there is no logical need for a God, and that absent any evidence for the existence of a God, any God, you may as well put that question to one side and investigate things which can be proved one way or another.
Christians: Which is a religious viewpoint.
Humanists: WTF?
Christians: You have an opinion on God's existence, which is, therefore, a religious opinion. QED.
Humanists: I... But... Flying Spaghetti Monster! Invisible Unicorn! Invisible Dragon in the Garage! Invisible Teapot in the sky! Gah!
Christians (smugly): Religious.
Humanists: ... OK, Fine. Whatever. You say we're a religion, great. We're a religion. And there are a lot of us. So, you know what? As a religion, we demand the right to hold Religious Instruction class in schools, like you do.
Christians: What? WHAT?!? NO! No way! You... you're not even a religion! You can't teach RI, cause you're not even a religion! Geez, you don't even believe in God! How can you be a religion?! This is so totally unfair!
... And if we allow Atheists to do RI, what's next? Witches? Satanists? Unitarians???

[1] Because, by and large, the other religions in Australia have had better things to do with their time than have this argument. Mostly because they were trying to fight off the same Christians trying this on with them...
[2] Obviously not all Christians. Most Christians are simply people trying to live by a code and be true to what they believe, day by day, just like most Jews, most Muslims, most Discordians, most Buddhists, &c &c. It's the ones who are the quickest and loudest to tell you how Christian they are, and how it makes them better people than you, they're the ones I have a serious problem with.


catsidhe: (Default)
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